tv 2020 ABC September 2, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT
>> i'm john quinones. "what would you do" lts be back here next week. you can connect with us any time, like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. that's our program for tonight. n't go any where. "20/20" starts right now. tonight on "20/20" -- >> oh, my god! >> reporter: it was the heartwarming mother/daughter reunion that went viral. captured by st. louis tv news crews. >> my baby. >> an emotional reunion today. >> reporter: 77-year-old zella jackson price, a local gospel legend, reuniting with diane gilmore, the daughter she hadn't seen since her birth nearly 50 years ago. >> my baby. >> reporter: in some ways, you've become a mom again. >> i got a baby. and she wears a size ten. >> reporter: the emotional
gathering made possible by diane's twin daughters. >> how is it that a woman could be told that her baby had died and then all of a sudden find out that her baby's alive with a family of her own? >> reporter: tonight, the baby-selling scandal that rocked a major american city. >> st louis hospital, homer g. phillips, are selling babies. >> reporter: at what point did you try to figure out what went wrong? how did this happen? >> other women saying their babies had been taken, too. >> and i want my baby back! >> reporter: a premier metropolitan hospital under attack, with a fire-breathing lawyer fanning the flames. >> babies were being sold out of the parking lot. it was pay for play, cash on delivery. >> reporter: and the nurses who say, no way. somebody's lying. >> it just seems like impossible, ridiculous, it could not have happened. >> kiss my [ bleep ]. >> reporter: okay. >> come with us on our eight-month investigation as we try to solve the mystery with the self-proclaimed loud mouth lawyer.
>> they're going to give her the arch, the stadium, they'll give her the damn state. >> and the gospel singer. >> why are they doing this to me? >> reporter: but what's the gospel truth? >> lay it on me, i can take it, i can take it. >> mystery in the maternity room. good evening, i'm elizabeth vargas. david is off tonight. this family reunion is part of a 50-year-old mystery, where a mother says she was robbed of her baby. but now, many asking, what really did happen in that maternity room? here's debra roberts. >> reporter: zella jackson price's heartwarming reunion with her long-lost daughter diane triggered a media frenzy in st. louis and beyond. >> an emotional reunion. >> meeting for the first time. >> so sad and happy at the same
time. >> so glad your family is whole again. >> reporter: but that story starts 2,000 miles away from the river city. past the rocky mountains, on the far side of the country, in springfield, oregon. a lush lumber town, home to diane gilmore and her children, including twin daughters malika and mehiska. the 23-year-olds wanted to give their mom a memorable surprise, finding the birth mother she never knew. >> she had her kids. but she didn't have her mom. this is something that was missing in her life. >> reporter: what was the plan? >> this year, my mom turns 50 and we want to do something for her for her birthday. >> reporter: so, her girls set out to find their grandmother. but who was she and where? over the years they'd heard their mom mention a name. zella mae jackson. a clue big enough for the twins to begin some online detective work. >> we looked her up on google. and it kept popping up zella jackson price and like, the music that she does.
♪ and i was like, maybe she's a singer. >> reporter: a singer with a following on youtube. her facebook page revealing a familiar gleam in her eye. did you see any resemblance? >> yeah. yeah. my twin sister looks like my grandma and then i see my grandma, her eyes, i say that's my mom's eyes. >> reporter: a striking resemblance. who could mistake it? so they decide to send zella this message. >> hello, my name is mehiska jackson. i believe that you're my grandmother and you're my mom's mom. >> what you say, baby? and she said, my mother was born november the 25th, 1965, in st. louis, missouri. at homer phillips hospital, does that ring a bell? >> reporter: it sure did. zella agrees to a dna test and guess what? it's a match. >> and it came out 90.997%, that's my baby.
>> reporter: diane's children then secretly choreograph a virtual meeting with zella determined to surprise their mom right down to the blindfold. >> okay, ready? don't move. >> reporter: their mom is deaf so they slowly reveal the unbelievable news. we found your mom. our grandmom. >> she's alive! >> yeah, mom. mom, mom? she's in tears. >> reporter: on a laptop, back in st. louis, zella is anxiously waiting to see her daughter for the very first time in nearly 50 years. >> it's your mother. [ crying ] >> she said, mommy. oh, my god, i started howling, both houses was just screaming, from oregon to st. louis. >> i love you. >> reporter: so much love. >> i love you.
>> reporter: even after so many years. but how zella and her daughter were separated all this time is a mystery that captivates the city. ♪ you've given me a true love >> reporter: st. louis, missouri, november 25th, 1965. with the supremes blaring on the radio. steelworkers have just finished the sparkling new gateway arch. and a few miles away at homer g. phillips hospital, 26-year-old zella jackson says she's being rushed down these hallways. only six months pregnant, but her baby's about to be born. >> they said, oh, mother, you're so early. what happened? they said she's lost a lot of water, and they put me in a room to the side. >> reporter: unbelievably zella says she's left alone and strangely no doctors or nurses are in sight. >> when she was born i was by myself, nobody was with me, no
one. and she was crying, little faint cry. i kept hollering, nurse, nurse. >> reporter: so you were basically delivering her yourself. >> oh, yeah. i was alarmed that she had come out. >> reporter: when hospital staff finally arrives, it's a nurse not a doctor who zella says takes her newborn baby girl and vanishes. the nurse took her away and you never had a chance to hold her? >> no, i didn't ever have a chance. >> reporter: how did you come to name her, because you barely saw her. >> they asked me, did you want to name her? i said, yes, her name is diane. >> reporter: hours later, zella says, the nurse returns. arms empty but carrying devastating news. >> they came and told me, your baby passed. >> reporter: do you ask to see the baby? >> no, no, no, it's something about that time of life, when doctors and nurses make statements like that, you receive it and you believe it. >> reporter: believed it, perhaps, because it had happened
before to this young married mom of two. just five years earlier zella had lost a baby boy, michael. so she comes to terms with yet another tragic loss. >> maybe something was wrong and nature said, this baby's not prepared for life, so i'll take her back. >> reporter: did they ask you if you wanted to bury it, or -- >> not this one. i accepted early birth that went wrong. >> reporter: zella says she went home with heartbreak and without a death certificate. but the loss never shakes her faith. the young mom manages to move on. ♪ her gospel voice captivating congregations across st. louis.
♪ as her musical career grows, so does her family. she has five children in all and now 50 years later daughter diane miraculously makes six. in a way it was like your baby came back from the dead. >> that's why i stare at her a lot but i'm looking at myself. i missed all of this. but i can see love that was given to her. i just wish it was me. >> reporter: but that initial awe and joy soon give way to anger. >> i enjoyed my babies, i really did, and somebody else robbed me of that. >> reporter: at what point did you try to figure out what went wrong? how did this happen? >> my children, they said, "mom, what you going to do?" i said, "i got to get to the bottom of this." why was i told that she had passed?
i want answers. >> reporter: so she hires al watkins, a renowned and brash st. louis attorney. >> the angst that has been caused by her realization that for 50 years she could not raise her baby. have successes and failures with her baby. you can't help to literally have your heart melt. >> reporter: was there a suspicion that maybe this was some kind of a strange mix-up? >> the credibility with which zella jackson price presented couldn't be denied. it became really clear to me that something was significantly amiss. >> reporter: when we come back, the hard-charging lawyer goes public with an unbelievable claim. a sinister baby-stealing ring in st. louis? >> babies were being stolen from their mothers and people were making money. >> reporter: and watkins insists zella might not be the only
victim. a slew of women coming forward all telling a similar story. >> they just took my baby and i want my baby back. want my baby back. >> reporter: stay with us. especially on class picture day! you have to stay clean. [dogs barking] you've gotta be responsible. whoa! and no matter what, be on time. it's no big deal for a second grader. cat and jack uniforms. guaranteed for one year. you may be muddling through allergies.oned with... try zyrtec® for powerful allergy relief. and zyrtec® is different than claritin®. because it starts working faster on the first day you take it. try zyrtec®. muddle no more®. and so is mcdonald's newest mcpick 2 line up. nfl season is here choose between a quarter pounder with cheese. our newest pick triple cheeseburger. the 10 piece chicken mcnuggets. or the filet-o-fish.
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that revolve around you. because that's what the ibm cloud is built for. >> reporter: st. louis, missouri, gateway to the west. but it's the floodgates that are about to open here with more force than the mighty mississippi. renowned gospel singer zella jackson-price suspects the city has been keeping a 50-year-old secret. >> the zella price story is causing women to come forward
questioning whether they were lied to when told their babies died at homer g. philips hospital. >> reporter: all sparked by her moving reunion with the daughter she thought had died five decades ago. >> you can't tell me that one child who miraculously shows up 50 years later was the full extent and scope of the exploitation that was in place. >> reporter: how many women would you guess have contacted you? >> we're approaching 150 women with credible stories. >> reporter: after zeroing in on those stories, watkins goes on to make a raging allegation, brazenly pointing the finger at that hospital, homer g. phillips. >> the place to buy was homer g. and babies were being sold out of the parking lot. it was pay for play, cash on delivery. >> reporter: and watkins is ready to take on the city, one battered and reeling from the unrest in nearby ferguson. >> i can hold her baby up exhibit "a" and you tell me, you tell me a jury in the city of
st. louis going to listen to this gospel singer that everybody knows and look at this beautiful baby diane. they're going to give her the arch, the stadium, they'll give her the damn state. this is wrong. and we owe it to every one of these women. >> reporter: so many women who have come out of the woodwork in the wake of publicity brought on by zella's case. >> they want to know if a st. louis hospital stole their newborns and sold them. >> reporter: the day we visited watkins' office, here's the scene we found. one anxious woman after another, all with same searing question, could my child still be alive? as these women began to file in re, what kinds of emotions did you see? >> they weren't here to garner sympathy or, or tears from some skinny, little white attorney from the suburbs. they were here to get answers. >>eporter: how many of you delivered children at homer g. phillips? did any of you ever give up this
feeling inside that maybe your baby might be alive? >> no. >> never. and it's been difficulty for me because i didn't get a chance to take and see my baby walk for the first time. i didn't get a chance to take her to school for the first day, and they just took my baby and i want my baby back. >> it has opened up wounds. >> reporter: otha brand was just 15 at the time she gave birth, and like zella, says she never held her baby in her arms. >> you know, when a mother holds her child, that's contact and i might have started questioning things maybe if i'd have held that child. >> reporter: 63-year-old jacqueline butler, a nanny for most of her life because of her love for babies, says hospital staff made up excuses to prevent her from seeing hers. >> i was told, "you can't see her, you have a cold." and i would say no, i don't have
a cold, i want to see my baby. i kept begging to see her and finally, they came back and said that she had been, she had died three days afterwards and i had been there ten and no one had said anything to me. >> reporter: no one came in to tell you? >> no. >> reporter: how many of you think you might get some answers? >> i hope so. >> reporter: all say they never got death certificates and admit they didn't ask questions back then. most were teens carrying babies out of wedlock, naive, often alone and scared. >> this is the mid-'60s, where the word of a doctor, the word of a nurse, it was the functional equivalent of, of gospel. the doctor said your baby has passed or the nurse had said your baby has passed, your baby's passed. >> reporter: at the center of this controversy, homer g. phillips hospital, now
a senior living facility. but at the time, the city-run hospital was a beacon of hope in the black community. considered one of the most technically advanced in the world. >> they were going to show that they were going to deliver class "a" care, secondary to none. >> reporter: the firestorm is unfathomable to dr. will ross, an associate professor at washington university school of medicine. who was working on a book praising the old hospital when zella jackson-price's story breaks. must have floored you. >> it did. because we're talking about the legacy of a great hospital. the premier training ground for african-american physicians. the pride of that community. >> reporter: in such a prominent hospital, how could something as underhanded as baby stealing happen? "st. louis post dispatch" reporter robert patrick, who has been on the story, says not everything was running smoothly at the publically-funded hospital. >> they struggled each year for money. and i think one of the things that suffered was administration, staffing, maybe
record-keeping. >> it shouldn't come as a surprise, it was a hospital that was, it's the black hospital. you had supervisory issues. you had personnel issues. you had regulatory compliance issues. >> reporter: so it was kind of the perfect storm for some kind of scandalous activity. >> perfect storm is an appropriate if not perfect description. >> reporter: the big question many would ask, of course, is why? there wasn't a premium on black babies. why? >> st. louis has always proudly had a large and significant middle class african-american community. there is a market need. you had a mindset that this baby doesn't have a chance with this mom. so we're going to do everyone a favor and by the way, we'll make some money in the process. >> reporter: so a moral judgment here and a little financial incentive, and it all kind of went together. >> it's playing god with some, with some babies. >> reporter: with these scathing
allegations, and so many tearful women coming forward, watkins puts pressure on authorities to open an investigation. >> everybody was shocked. >> reporter: u.s. attorney richard callahan. >> if true it was, it was something terrible going on at a time that nobody knew about. >> reporter: meantime, watkins could be on the verge of another reunion. >> hi, my name is al watkins. >> reporter: on the line with him, 47-year-old tanya montgomery, a mom of seven, about to receive a bombshell. >> we think we have identified you as a potential child of one of the mothers. >> and i said, what? >> reporter: tanya has no reason to believe she was adopted. but is open to looking into the possibility if it would help one of the mothers. >> there are only two babies that were born at homer g. phillips hospital on may 30th, 1967, and one of them was you. >> reporter: could tanya be the long-lost daughter of otha brand, a woman we met earlier? >> he told me that it could be a possibility that i could be her
child. >> i just believe that she is my daughter. it's just too many coincidences. i just feel that it is. >> reporter: notice any striking similarities? they do. so they agreed to meet in person, while we at "20/20" commission a dna test. >> looks like we have the same smile. that's a good picture of you right there. i could see like, my eyes a little bit. >> reporter: could the results help confirm those stunning baby-selling allegations? stay with us. what if one piece of kale could protect you from diabetes? (crunch) what if one sit-up could prevent heart disease? one. wishful thinking, right? but there is one step you can take to help prevent another serious disease, pneumococcal pneumonia. if you are 50 or older, one dose of the prevnar 13® vaccine can help protect you from pneumococcal pneumonia, an illness that can cause coughing, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and may even put you in the hospital.
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♪ >> reporter: gospel singer zella jackson-price is on cloud nine. ♪ ♪ oh happy day as her newfound daughter, diane, finds harmony with the sisters she just met. >> i thought you were floating with the angels. i didn't know you made your return back to earth. >> reporter: with the firestorm of a stolen baby scandal ripping through st. louis, zella is quietly catching up on decades of lost time. >> this is me and your time, mother and daughter time. >> ah.
>> mother and daughter time. i've got to make up for all those years. 49 years. i got to make up for that. i'm still in amazement. i talked to god. i don't want to ask him no questions. i thank him. >> reporter: but her lawyer is asking plenty of questions about how and why a hospital nurse would have told zella all those years ago that her premature baby had died. >> in fact, the doctor was the class of '74. >> reporter: in the midst of our investigation, an incredible discovery. a room full of former hospital staff who aren't buying the stolen baby claims. >> it just seems like impossible, ridiculous. it just could not have happened. >> reporter: it's a reunion of homer g. phillips nurses who reluctantly let us inside. >> we don't want to get involved with this negativity. this is why we said don't call us. they've called me about eight or nine times.
>> reporter: when we met them last summer, they were fuming. insisting that zella's story is preposterous. >> no nurse would come and tell someone that their baby passed. that was the doctor's role and responsibility. >> reporter: and dorothy thornton, who once worked in labor and delivery, has a message for zella and her zealous lawyer. >> when you get the right truth, you owe us an apology, because you have just degraded us like i don't know what. >> reporter: what do you say to folks who worked at homer g. phillips who resent this implication that this hospital was complicit in baby stealing? >> kiss my [ bleep ]. >> reporter: okay. >> i've got a job and a duty that will not be compromised because somebody's feelings are hurt. >> reporter: watkins is deep into the investigation involving baby diane, and lays out more details of his stunning theory. >> what we've garnered thus far gives rise to the inescapable conclusion that zella's baby, diane, was sold. >> reporter: sold, watkins
insists, into adoption. but he suspects that once the adoptive parents realized diane was deaf, they likely returned her. >> baby diane was brought back like a dog to the pet shop. this baby's broke. boom. give me a new one. >> reporter: if that isn't jarring enough, he goes further, speculating that diane was then placed into foster care with a family who was in it for the money and may have been part of a cover-up. they were complicit? >> right. >> reporter: an audacious claim against a foster family, one that watkins has never even spoken to. so "20/20" tracked down the surviving family. enraged and ready to blow zella's story out of the water. >> there's something stinky going on. >> reporter: it was barbara richardson's mom and dad who raised diane, taking her in when she was just four months old, not for profit, but out of kindness, barbara says. >> they loved me, and they treated her the same as they treated me.
so it sounds like love to me. >> reporter: eric richardson is barbara's son. >> when the story moved from something that could've happened in the hospital to, well, maybe this was some kind of conspiracy in which my grandmother was involved, that kind of to me crossed the line. >> reporter: in fact, the richardsons have a starkly different version of events right after diane was born. >> when it was time to be released, no one had been to see the child and no one came, you know. she was an abandoned baby. abandoned at birth. >> reporter: abandoned at birth? and take a look. old records from hospital social workers confirm it, saying diane was abandoned by her mother, zella jackson. but the richardsons have more to reveal, saying that when diane was 9 years old, her foster mom made it a point to find diane's biological mom, and even had a name to start the search. >> she found a zella mae jackson and called her.
the woman just said, "no, i didn't have a baby," so, i mean, what do you do at that point? >> reporter: though zella denies getting that call, u.s. attorney richard callahan is intrigued by those old records that are surfacing. >> that began to paint a different picture from what zella price was saying. >> reporter: so you began to see some discrepancies? >> well, the records were certainly contradicting the story. >> reporter: then he uncovers an explosive contradiction. one that will shake the stolen baby story to its core. callahan releases diane's birth certificate, and take a look. it says she was born at city hospital, not homer g. phillips as zella jackson-price claims. >> you sort of think, well, there can't have been a baby stealing ring running out of homer g. phillips, if the baby wasn't born at homer g. phillips. >> reporter: the bombs keep going off. you came here, your water had broke? >> yeah.
>> reporter: coming up, time for tough questions. we bring zella back to the scene of the alleged crime. she's defensive and defiant. >> why are they doing this to me? >> reporter: when "20/20" continues. in january 2012. left on our honeymoon it actually evolved into a business. from our blog to video editing... our technology has to hang tough with us. when you're going to a place without electricity, you need a long battery life. the touch, combined with the screen resolution... a mac doesn't have that. we wanted to help more people get out there and see the world. once you take that leap, that's where the magic happens. buy at olive garden back choose one delicious entrée at our place and another for yours starting at $12.99 may all your tomorrow's be as delicious as today olive garden it's the final days of the and the deals just got better. ♪ i'm free to do what i want and have a good time. ♪
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>> you know i'm your mama. >> reporter: this is one feel-good reunion story that seems to be going bad in a hurry. >> reporter: assuming these records are accurate, they fail to back up allegations that baby diane was stolen from homer g. phillips hospital in 1965. >> reporter: despite zella jackson-price's explosive claim that her long lost daughter was stolen at birth, there's little evidence to back it up. in fact, her story appears to be falling apart. with decades-old records showing that the baby was born at a
completely different hospital than the one she claims. >> so this would have been the emergency entrance that you came into almost 50 years ago. >> yeah, yeah. >> reporter: to get to the bottom of it, we caught up with the gospel singer after church, and brought her back to the old homer g. phillips -- now a senior living facility. could there have been some kind of a trauma for you? how do you explain -- >> no, no. they're not going to do me like that to make me think i was at another hospital. no, she was born right here. >> reporter: no doubt in your mind? >> no doubt about it. >> reporter: is it possible that maybe you somehow thought that the baby had died and you left and the baby really wasn't -- >> no, no, no. no. this really makes me feel bad for me to be accused of saying my baby died. that's an accusation. >> reporter: she even recalls grieving here with a visiting friend, ruth grimes, who swore to seeing zella here in an affidavit.
>> she was crying when i went up to see her, and told me she lost her baby. >> reporter: zella isn't wavering either. insisting she never abandoned diane. what about paperwork that says they tried to reach out to you? >> i was easy to find. why are they saying they tried to reach out to me, i'm a licensed driver, i worked at depaul, i have a social security number, and you can't find me? >> reporter: but old records suggest that maybe zella didn't want to be found. notes from social workers say authorities called, wrote, and even visited her home address, where they were told she moved. and zella's grandmother and uncle were "either unable or unwilling to give any information regarding mrs. jackson's whereabouts." you never heard talk of anyone trying to find you? >> nobody trying to find me. my relatives have said nothing to me that somebody was looking for you. that's the first time i heard of it. why are they doing this to me? >> reporter: but for all her denials, zella did share with us that diane was conceived out of wedlock.
she was separated from her husband and became pregnant by another man, harvey price, whom she later married. circumstances less than ideal for a budding gospel singer. this sounds like what? the stuff of mystery novels? >> the only mystery in my mind is why the allegations were made to begin with. >> reporter: with mounting evidence casting doubt on zella's sensational story, u.s. attorney richard callahan announces that baby diane was not stolen. >> we can now say with complete confidence that there is absolutely no truth to that allegation. therefore our investigation is closed. >> reporter: but with everything seemingly going against him, zella's attorney al watkins refuses to back down. do you worry that, at best, zella could be somehow confused or at worst, could be lying? >> the more documentation that i procure, the more confident i am
that the integrity of zella's story is light years above that which can be associated with records which quite frankly look like they were prepared by hellen keller on crack. >> reporter: he goes so far as to suggest those old documents may have been forged. showing us what he believes to be many inconsistent details. so you don't believe that this birth certificate is authentic. >> i believe it was an authentic birth certificate created years after the fact for the purposes of secreting the truth as it relates to the birth of diane and the motherhood of zella. >> reporter: incredibly, he even charges that zella's signature is a fake. and he doesn't stop there. >> that's the same birth certificate that's signed by a stamp with a dr. skaggs stamp. and dr. skaggs, if you look at that, was not a doctor as of that date. he was still a teenager. he didn't become a licensed doctor until years later. >> reporter: so your theory is that that record was falsified. >> absolutely. >> reporter: that led us to dig even deeper. starting with that so-called
teen doctor's signature. this old news article in the archives led us to a major discovery. the real dr. skaggs, now living in florida. and guess what? he was a full-fledged doctor when diane was born. >> that's a false comment. at the time of that delivery i was 27 years old. >> reporter: he agreed to look over diane's birth certificate for us. >> yes, this is my signature on the birth certificate. and its similar to my signature right now. >> reporter: as for watkins' other claim, that zella's signature on the birth certificate was forged since she insists she never signed it. we asked her to give us some extensive handwriting samples. then had an independent handwriting expert take a look. and his conclusion? zella's handwriting is definitely consistent with that signature on the birth certificate. dr. skaggs confirms his signature on this paperwork. a handwriting expert confirms
that in all likelihood this is zella's signature too. >> understood. >> reporter: why can't you just accept that zella's story just isn't what it seems to be? >> i'm not going to fold, and crumple up simply because i've got the u.s. attorney's office that's -- that's saying, "oh, this is -- this is a lying woman," or i've got dr. skaggs down in florida saying, "well, you know, that's my signature." >> reporter: why is her signature on this paperwork if it indeed it's not accurate? >> you know, that's an issue we're going to have to wrestle with. >> reporter: it's the first time we sense a chink in watkins' steely armor. still, he's standing by his client. >> why would zella take her financial resources and go and hire the loudest mouth attorney in north america, pay him money to find an answer to a question to which she already knew the tragic answer? >> reporter: maybe she didn't know you were so loud-mouthed and maybe she didn't think that this thing would get to be so big. >> there's not a soul in st. louis that doesn't know i have a mouth as big as they come. >> reporter: so the looming
question, what about all those other mothers who streamed into watkins' office with unsettling stories of newborns they were told died long ago? when we come back. >> looks like there's a chance that you could be my mom. >> and you could be my daughter. yes. >> reporter: otha mae brand's dna results are in. if there's a match, does it prove the baby stealing ring was real after all? we'll see what's in the envelope when we return. >> the suspense is killing me. , but i switched to sprint! i switched too! great! have you seen all the whining from verizon? i think verizon, the goliath, is panicking. people are switching to sprint! all these networks are great now, people are tired of overpaying. sprint cut my rates by 50%! sprint's network covers nearly 300 million people and their network reliability is within 1% of verizon. [ dog barks ] can you hear that? switch to sprint and save 50% on most current verizon, at&t and t-mobile rates. for people with hearing loss, visit sprintrelay.com
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>> reporter: is zella jackson-price a victim, or the perpetrator of her own cover-up? a federal investigation into her lawyer's claim of a baby stealing conspiracy has gone nowhere. >> there's a lot of theories being advanced by mr. watkins, god bless him. but none of them pan out. >> reporter: still, zella dismisses the new evidence against her. how do you explain the
paperwork? >> those papers are bogus. they are. >> reporter: the papers are bogus. >> they are. they are. they're bogus. i can hardly read them, they were so faded. >> forget about the documents for a second. forget about the records. there are, there are no other mother/daughter pairs like zella and diane who have come forward and said, "you know, here we are." >> reporter: or are there? remember otha mae brand, the former teen mom who came to al watkins with a similar story of a newborn daughter who allegedly died at homer g. hospital? >> when i look back at everything that has happened to me, it has opened up wounds. >> reporter: watkins tracked down tanya montgomery, who he believes was born the same day otha gave birth. tanya's intrigued though she doesn't think she was adopted. >> looks like it's a chance that you could be my mom. >> reporter: "20/20" offered that dna test to find out if they really are mother and long lost daughter. if they are a match like zella and diane, it could be the ace al desperately needs to support his claim of a baby stealing
ring back in the '60s. >> hi! >> good morning! >> reporter: a week later, they're in al watkins' office, anxious to hear the results. >> a little nervous because i don't know the outcome, you know. i know we can't get those years back but we can start from now, you know? >> the suspense is killing me. >> all right, good morning ladies. how are you? we have the test results. i'm opening them in front of you and i'll tell you what's going on here. we have a maternity analysis report. the testing of the child is tanya. the alleged mother is otha and it reflects that there is a zero probability of a relationship. >> okay. okay. >> all right? >> reporter: they are left speechless, crestfallen.
suddenly back to being strangers. tanya does her best to comfort otha. >> i really, really hope that the next person that you find is your baby. >> reporter: then the devastation hits. >> it was better when i didn't know. because all these years i didn't know i'd have nothing to cry about, you know, because i didn't know. >> reporter: it's also a huge setback for watkins, who's failed to produce any viable proof of a baby selling ring. yet, incredibly, he's not giving up, vowing to find answers for all 150 hopeful moms who came to him for help. these are women who have been traumatized by the death of a child. they're coming to you, now, with the hope that maybe their story could result like zella's. aren't you giving these women false hope? >> do you think it's false hope to tell a woman who comes to me after seeing what's happened with zella and diane, and say, oh, you know what, don't worry about the fact that somebody at homer g. phillips hospital said you lost your baby.
don't worry about it. what's the appropriate response? to say, i'm going to look for an answer for you? or is the appropriate answer to say, you know what, lady, you're full of [ bleep ]. >> reporter: so the scrappy lawyer fights on. since many say they have no proof their babies died. that is, until "st. louis post-dispatch" reporter robert patrick unearths the dreaded truth. death certificates for many of those babies, another blow for watkins. >> we were able to document, with at least one source, the deaths of three-quarters of the babies. >> reporter: still, that leaves one-quarter of these women desperate for answers. and tonight, one of them has a message for zella. >> if you indeed did give your daughter up then, then you need to, i would say, come clean. >> reporter: but even as many doubt her, zella jackson-price is standing tall. >> it's worth it to have my baby with me. i'll take the scandal, the abuse
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♪ happy birthday to you >> reporter: last november, diane gilmore celebrated her 50th birthday with her biological mom, a gift diane's twin daughters set out to deliver when they unwittingly ignited a national scandal. melika and mehiska say their new granny makes the grade. >> she's like us. >> she's just, she's a diva. she's got the best sense of humor. i never expected a grandmother as funny as she is. >> reporter: yet zella is haunted by all the other milestones she missed. >> our bond has gotten stronger and i feel it's never going to
break. even though we were apart, we're together and i think it's going to be a long, long time that we'll be strong together. >> reporter: still, there are lingering questions. did someone steal the past from zella? or did she rewrite it herself? she's hoping new evidence will come out and support her version of events. >> we have a monumental ruling in the fight for answers in the homer g. phillips hospital. >> reporter: a judge recently released medical records for many moms whose cases remain unresolved. as al watkins digs into those, we put him in the hot seat one last time. have you found any other mothers to match with lost children out there? >> no. not -- not one. >> reporter: some would say that that takes the air out of your story. >> you can say that all you like. >> reporter: what if you find enough evidence soon enough that your theory can't hold up? >> i'll be the first one to stand on the highest mountain, and i'll proudly proclaim that i was wrong.
>> reporter: not long after, no talk of scandal. only blessings at thanksgiving dinner. but perhaps the place where love between mother and daughter speaks loudest is here at church, where music is the universal language. the idea that you're this gospel singer and she can't hear you sing. >> but let me tell you, deaf people do feel the rhythm on the floor, through the floor. and i start playing, she wanted to sing "oh happy day." she don't talk very clear, but she was singing, "oh happy day." >> reporter: a happy day indeed, as diane and zella look towards a new future together. so you're thankful for tomorrow? >> yesterday is gone. bui've got tomorrow. ♪ ♪ all the way >> all the way! >> zella, moving on to tomorrow.
two program notes. this week our "20/20" digital series "young and gifted" features a young man taking on gun violence in his town. and next week, one of our most personal hours. as many of you know, i've been on a difficult journey dealing with anxiety and addiction. next week, i'll be sitting down with diane sawyer to talk about the issues that affect millions of americans. i hope you'll join us. i'm elizabeth vargas. have a great night, and have a safe and wonderful labor day weekend. the dog park problems in